Wife and mother. Teacher and musician. Marathoner and rock climber. At 66, Dierdre Wolownick became the oldest woman to climb El Capitan in Yosemite — and in The Sharp End of Life: A Mother’s Story (Mountaineers Books), she shares her intimate journey, revealing how her climbing achievement reflects a broader story of courage and persistence.
Dierdre grew up under the watchful eyes of a domineering mother and realized early on that her parents’ plans for her future weren’t her own. Later, what seemed like a storybook romance brought escape and new experiences, but she discovered her husband was not the happy-go-lucky man he had first appeared. Adapting as best she could, Dierdre juggled work and raised two children, encouraging them to be fearlessly confident. After years of struggle in her marriage and her ultimate divorce, Dierdre found inspiration in her now-adult children’s passions including her son’s — famed free soloist Alex Honnold, as well as new depths within herself. From confused young wife and busy but lonely mother to confident middle-aged athlete, Dierdre brings the reader along as she finds new strength, happiness, and community in the outdoors–and a life of learning, acceptance, and spirit.